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Posted in Calvinism, Church History, Theology, tagged Calvinism, Christianity, doctrine, Faith, five solas, Irrisitible Grace, Limited Attonement, monergism, Pelagianism, perseverance of the saints, reformed theology, semi-pelagianism, Total Depravity, TULIP, Unconditional Election on January 8, 2009| 4 Comments »
Over the past 6 months to a year or so, I’ve been struggling with Calvinism vs. Semi-Pelagianism and where my beliefs fit in. At first I didn’t even know the difference between the two, and didn’t even know what Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism were. All I knew was what I was taught, and what other believers around me believed (Semi-Pelagianism).
At some point I was involved in a discussion/debate about Calvinism. I don’t even remember who that debate was with or really all what was said, I just remember wanting to know more about what Calvinism was, and it’s opposite Arminianism. I was also getting more curious about church history and what the early church founders believed about these issues. I decided at this point it was time to do some research of my own.
Over the next few months I started digging into the doctrine of Calvinism and it’s five points. And this is where I started running into some serious stumbling blocks, or issues that I had to come to terms with before I really could determine where I stood.
The Five Points of Calvinism:
- T – Total Depravity
- U – Unconditional Election
- L – Limited Atonement
- I – Irresistible Grace
- P – Perseverance of the Saints
In the beginning of my studies of Calvinism/Monergism I completely agreed with Total Depravity, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. I had some serious issues with Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement. At this point I considered myself a 3 point Calvinist. I was determined however to come to terms with these other two points no matter what it took.
My first stumbling block to tackle was Unconditional Election or Predestination. At this point I had some serious issues with this belief according to all that I was taught, and also my own personal conceptions on God’s calling or predestination. As I started really digging into scripture that talked about predestination, I had to come to terms with several issues that were raised if several pieces of scripture were true. My biggest issues were with Romans 8:28-30, and with almost all of Romans 9.
(Romans 8:28-30) 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
One of the questions I had was: “How could man have ‘Free Will’ and be predestined/called at the same time?”. I made the assumption that if someone was predestined then their ‘free will’ didn’t really exist. I thought that if predestination were true then all mankind were just robots just marching around doing what “destiny” had predetermined us to do. Previously I had come up with a compromise to this issue. I essentially believed in conditional election at that point. That God Foreknew the choices we would make, and predestined us according to those choices. Scripturally this is completely inaccurate, and I had to come to that realization in order to understand predestination. The other issue I had to understand before I could fully grasp predestination was the concept of man’s “free will”. Do we have a “free will” and can that “free will” trump God’s will? The way I understand it now is this: we do not have “free will”. Man has a will, as God created us in His image. However; our will was damaged and corrupted when Adam sinned. When Adam sinned all parts of humanity were stained and marred by this corruption, not excluding man’s will. What does this mean? It means that everything that we “will” is corrupted by our sinful natures. Once I understood this basic concept about man’s will, the rest of predestination made sense. What it meant was that man does have a will, however man’s will cannot trump God’s perfect and all powerful will, and plan for humanity. Now I will admit that I don’t have a total and complet understanding of this concept of man’s will versus God’s will, and maybe I never will. I do understand that if God is all powerful then nothing man will’s can trump God’s authority no matter what our pride tells us. I think the whole idea of man’s so called “free will” is a prideful, and self-glorifying concept. We want to feel that we have control over our lives, that we can control our destiny. If we feel we have control of our own lives then we are essentially glorifying ourselves over God. In reality what do we really have complete control of? If we really sit down and think hard about that, unless we completely dilute ourselves we cannot deny that our lives are for the most part completely out of our control.
Once I understood that concept about man’s will, my perceptions of our Total Depravity became much clearer as well. I also started to realize that what I had believed about how we come to salvation in Jesus Christ was skewed as well. I could no longer accept the idea that somehow man could choose Christ in any way, because every choice, thought, will man makes is marred completely by sin.
The following two videos I think explain this view quite well.
The other concept that I had to come to terms with or gain a proper understanding of, was the concept of the atonement of Jesus Christ death on the cross. Was that atonement granted to all people that ever lived as I had originally thought/ or been taught? Or was Jesus death only for those who believed. A little more study into the NT greek language lent some more understanding on this issue as well as a little bit of Logical deduction. Logically one could surmise that Jesus Christ’s death was not for all people. If Jesus died to atone for the sins of the world, then all people would be saved, meaning none would go to Hell. Now we know scripturally that some will go to Hell so this would mean that Jesus failed in some fashion. This is a biblical fallacy. I discovered some interesting information while researching the passages used to promote the idea that Jesus death was for “all” or “the whole world” (as some people come to understand the translation). I found that the greek word pas (pa=v) which translates to all among other words, was almost entirely dependant on the context in use. In most cases the context of all would lead one to surmise a specific group of people or things.
These are just some of the things that I have struggled with during my studies. I have not included a very inclusive list of references as this is mainly just a summary. I can however list the many references/scripture passages I have studied to come to these conclusions if so asked.
Over the last few years, i.e. since I have been married, and especially over the last year; I have started to see a major emotional problem that I have developed growing up. My emotional problem has been Suppressed Emotional Expression. I grew up in a drug abusive, and alcoholic family, which was not good for the emotional well being of any child. The two main emotions expressed in my house were extreme anger or sadness or despair. I was very emotional as a child, I think part of this was in response to my family life and circumstances. This was clearly unacceptable to my father, who made it clear that men do not cry and if I wanted to be a man I wouldn’t cry about every little thing. At some point in my teen years I began suppressing almost all of my emotions. I’m not exactly sure at what point this started however, I believe it began around the time of my severe depression and drug use in my late teens. As a result of this emotional suppression for the last 12 years I have struggled with properly expressing most of my emotions.
My biggest problem has been my short fuse. It seems that it doesn’t really take that much to blow my top, and naturally my anger is usually disproportionate to the situation. My anger is the only real emotion that I don’t have a problem expressing. What initially caused me to start looking into my emotional problems was the problems that quickly began to arise in my marriage. These problems ultimately culminated in an affair and pretty much forced us to face our problems as a couple and to address our own personal issues as well. We sought treatment from a counselor to assist us in dealing with our issues personally as well as maritally. This caused me to really investigate where my problem stemmed from and then how to address it.
Part of the solution has been an acknowledgment of the problem itself. This in itself didn’t fix the problem, but it has helped me to consciously attempt to remedy it. The other more amazing solution has been my acceptance of Christ a little over a year ago. Since then I have noticed an amazing improvement in my ability to express my emotions in a more sensible manner. I still struggle everyday with my anger issue and will probably continue to struggle with it for the rest of my life.
There is a common saying that, “Time heals all wounds.” However I don’t believe that is true. Here is a more true saying “Christ heals all wounds.” This is a realization that I have come to over the last year or so; that Christ wants my heart to be healed, and He will heal it if I entrust Him with it. I’ve also realized that God brought me through all the troubles of my life and childhood so that I would place my trust and faith in Him. I have endured hardship and struggle so that I would trust in His wisdom rather than that of men, so that I would glorify Him over everything.
Look at the stars. The most universally awesome experience that mankind knows is to stand alone on a clear night and look at the stars. It was God who first set the stars in space: He is their Maker and Master – they are all in His hands and subject to His will. Such are His power and His majesty. – JI Packer
This is so amazingly true. I can never look up into the sky and behold all of it’s wonder without thinking how awesome He is. His power is so great that our infinitesimal universe is only a tiny little fraction of His amazing power. He placed each and every single star in the heavens and knows each of them by name. Even more so with us. He lovingly formed each and every one of us in our mother’s wombs and He wants so much to be a part of our lives, if we’ll let him. He cares so much about our puny wretched little lives that He took on flesh and bore our punishment! I think about how I felt about God before my eyes were opened. I hated Him, but He still loved me anyway. He died for me when I was His enemy, and all He asked me to do is to believe in Him. Is there anything more awesome than this?! How can there be?
I recently watched one of my favorite movies; Facing The Giants. I love this movie so much because I know what it’s like to despair, to be so afraid of failing in every way, to be so desperate that you’d do almost anything for relief. It helps me to remember how awesome God is in every way, and every thing that He does. Another thing that I love about this movie is how it helps me to remember what God can do in my life when I submit to His will, and let Him show me that nothing is impossible when I believe and have faith in Him. Oh how the world needs to see how awesome our God is. We need to see and know that God is more than able to handle any burden we give to Him.
These are just some of the thoughts racing through my mind early this morning. I was moved to tears this morning while watching this movie, not because of the movie. It moved me because of the amazing things God has done in my life, despite of all that I have done and said. It moved me because of all the blessings God has given me, despite the wretched heart I had. This is how awesome God is, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.
So far all of my posts have been pretty positive, or about what we should be as Christians. However I think it’s time for a reality check. Every Christian, now matter how long they have been walking with Christ, struggles with something on a daily basis. This is just the nature of being human in a fallen state. Now granted we do have the Holy Spirit to guide us, but we don’t always listen to what the Holy Spirit tells us.
Proverbs 20:9 – Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?
Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
I know that I have trouble with my heart everyday. We have to try to be like David, who was a man after God’s own heart. Even David sinned. I think that’s why he wrote this prayer in the Psalms:
Psalm 51:10 – Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Another thing I struggle with on a daily basis is my anger. I have always had a short temper, for as long as I can remember. Maybe this is because I grew up with so much anger and violence in my family. Maybe it’s just my heart. I don’t know exactly what causes me to anger so easily. It has been easier since I came to Christ, but I still find myself getting angry for little cause at times. This is especially hard and dangerous when you have kids. Children have a tendency to bring out the worst and the best in us. A child can provoke even the most patient man to anger. So much more for us who are easily angered. I have to be extremely careful not to lose my temper around my children, which at times can be extremely difficult. I have to be extremely careful not to end up like my father, who throughout my childhood always seemed angry, and lost his temper at the drop of a hat. I don’t want my children to grow up feeling the way that I felt.
I struggle everyday with reading my bible. Sometimes I let the things of the world distract me from what is really important, God’s Word. This is part of the reason I started this blog. To help keep me focused on what is important. To help me store up treasures in heaven and not on earth.
I struggle with intercessory prayer sometimes. It’s easy to pray for myself. We are all selfish in nature, and it’s easy to pray for ourselves. To pray for others can be difficult unless we are consciously aware of it. One thing I try to do when I pray is to make my prayers for myself the last thing I pray for if at all.
Spending quiet time with God is another thing I have trouble with. We live in such a fast paced world with so much stimulation. It can be hard to just stop everything, all the distractions and to listen for His Word in my heart, to rest in Him.
I struggle with helping my wife around the house sometimes. I have to consciously make myself help her with the housework sometimes. I know my wife appreciates it when I do help her out, especially here lately with her being pregnant and her chronic pain flaring up worse than it has before. This has kind of forced me to help with our son more on my days off as well. This can be hard to do especially after a long night at work.
These are some of the things that I struggle with on a daily basis. I can come up with more, however these are the most common, and hardest things to deal with for me. What do you struggle with in your walk with Christ?
Inspired by a post on a fellow Christian’s blog(Joy@the pure interest) about the things that bring us Joy in our everyday life; I decided to snap a few pictures today and throw them up here along with some personal thoughts on what and why they give me Joy in everyday life.
My favorite book in all the world. His Word. It seems that everyday I open it’s pages I find something to encourage me, I learn something new about God, and gain a better understanding of Him and His plan for my life.
It seems every time that I get the camera out to take a picture of anything, my son feels the need to show off. This is him being…well his cute little self.
This is what I was originally trying to get when I took the camera out, however it took a dozen pictures and some coercion to get it. He is truly a blessing from God, and possibly the real reason why I am not another of the lost sheep still wandering in the darkness.
My beloved wife blogging away. She really didn’t want her picture taken here, however I needed a current photo for the day for this post. I know she will understand the use on this page as it is out of love. She brings me joy everyday we are together. I thank the Lord for everyday that I have to spend with her.
The following pictures weren’t taken today, however they did give me great joy when I took them this last week or two.
Here my son is taking immense joy in the entertaining uses of the diaper box. This is something I find amazing, especially considering he’s entertained himself with it for the last 2 weeks. He enjoys just hanging out in it watching his cartoons, or placing a number of toys in it and proceeding to kick it around the house. Hours and hours of fun in a simple box. I wish I could have so much fun with something as simple…ah the days of childhood.
More entertainment from a box. This one isn’t good enough for just his train and accessories. He almost looks as if I’m going to scold him for sitting in the container. Purely adorable though.
In the lap of luxury. A rare occasion in our house to have a plate full of food and sit in the living room watching tv. We were all sick this week and we decided to let a few things slide. He was very well behaved that morning despite the way he was feeling.